Saturday, December 23, 2006

Australia: Terrorists Planning Christmas Attack

The Australian government has information that possible terrorist attacks are being planned around Christmas in Indonesia, the foreign minister said. "We do have some information about possible specific terrorist attacks," Alexander Downer told reporters. Downer offered no details of any potential attacks but said Australians should heed government warnings to reconsider nonessential travel to the world's most populous Muslim country. His comments mirrored similar warnings issued previously by Australian officials around times when terrorist attacks are considered to be a higher risk than normal, such as Christian religious holidays. Indonesian officials have criticized Australia for being alarmist for issuing such warnings. "Every month they say that kind of thing. If they know anything, just let us know," Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters.
Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer
Indonesian authorities said they had no reason to believe terrorists are plotting attacks over the Christmas holidays, but thousands of troops will be deployed to guard Indonesian churches. "The security situation is good, but we remain on alert," intelligence chief Syamsir Siregar said. Downer said churches and other places had been targeted in the past during Christmas time in Indonesia. The Australian government has recently upgraded its warnings to Australians in Indonesia warning "of the possibility of terrorist attacks over the holiday period." Indonesia has been hit by terrorist attacks in recent years blamed on the al-Qaida-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, and with 2006 so far bomb-free many people worry another attack is imminent. Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for the 2002 twin nightclub bombings on Bali island, 2003 blasts at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, 2004 bombings at the Australian Embassy and last year's restaurant bombings on Bali. The attacks together killed more than 240 people, many of them foreign tourists.